As previously tipped (See The Goss, 17 Jan 2005), Simon Russell Beale and Paul Rhys will join Ralph Fiennes for Deborah Warner’s staging of Julius Caesar, with John Shrapnel taking the title role. The epic production, which will feature a cast of 30 and 100 extras (See The Goss, 11 Jan 2005), will play from 20 April to 14 May 2004 (previews from 14 April) at the Barbican Theatre prior to a European tour to Paris, Madrid and Luxembourg.

Russell Beale, who plays Cassius, is well known to theatregoers for his many National Theatre credits include Humble Boy, Jumpers, Money, Summerfolk, Hamlet, Candide, Volpone and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as well as numerous seasons at the RSC. In 2002, he starred in Sam Mendes' farewell double bill of Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night at the Donmar Warehouse, winning a hat trick of Best Actor awards in London before transferring to New York. Russell Beale opened last night, taking the title role in the Almeida’s new production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (pictured).

Rhys, who plays Brutus, has starred on stage in The Invention of Love, Hamlet, King Lear, Long Day’s Journey into Night, Design for Living and, most recently, the Complicite-NT co-production of Measure for Measure. On screen, he’s been seen in Love Lies Bleeding, Nina Takes a Lover, Chaplin, Vincent and Theo, I Saw You, Anna Karenina, Dance to the Music of Time and The Healer. Shrapnel’s recent film credits include Troy, Gladiator, Notting Hill and K-19.

The cast also features Anthony Mark Barrow, David Glover, Jim Hooper, Alex McIntosh, Tim Potter, Paul Shearer, Struan Rodger and John Rogan. The production is designed by Tom Pye, with lighting by Jean Kalman, music by Mel Mercier and sound by Christopher Shutt.

Commenting on Julius Caesar in a press statement, director Deborah Warner said: “We are living in extraordinary times - human, natural and political. This is a play for those times. I'm looking forward to working on it with this remarkable group of actors.”

The new Shakespeare production follows last year’s success with The Black Rider, starring Marianne Faithfull, as only the second show produced by the Barbican itself. It’s co-produced with Theatre National du Chaillot, Paris, Teatro Espanol, Madrid and Grand Theatre de la Ville, Luxembourg, in association with the Young Vic Theatre Company.

- by Terri Paddock